PALM DESERT, Calif. - Palm Desert City Council says no to a high-end gym. The owner wanted to renovate a building north of Highway 111 that's been vacant for over 9 years, but the City Council decided a gym doesn't belong mixed in with office buildings.
"I wanted to put a special elite gym, Five Star Fitness, just like they have in Beverly Hills," said owner and developer Suresh Shah.
Shah bought half of a building in Village Court for $2.6 million with plans to invest at least $3 million more.
"This building has been empty for the last nine years, they tried to sell it, nobody would buy it, they tried to rent it, nobody would come here, I don't want it to sit another four or five years so I thought I would put a nice gym," said Shah.
Attorney Richard Houghton's office sits across the street from the proposed gym.
"I'd loved to have a gym right across the street, I need to exercise more and it would certainly be convenient. I also think it would bring in more people to this area which might help my business and the other business around here," said Houghton.
At issue is the way this building is zoned, it's for professional office space. In fact several businesses are already set up in this building including an orthodontist office. The doctors who own it spoke up against the gym during Thursday's Council Meeting.
"What this comes down to is the placement of this gym, there is noise issues, there is going to be parking issues, there is going to be traffic issues and those are all real concerns that we have," said Dr. Morgan Moranda during the meeting.
Moranda said the gym would also take over common areas that his business holds part ownership of.
"It will devalue our business, high-end orthodontics on not located next to gyms," said Dr. Jeffrey Schantz.
Shah says he modified plans to address those concerns, but the city says it came down to zoning. Gyms typically go in commercial zones, this area is zoned office professional.
Council Members worried if they took away this office space today, there won't be any when the economy picks up down the line.
All of the Council Members were in favor of the gym just not in that location, three other sites were suggested according to director of community development Lauri Aylaian. Alylaian also told us Shah was told before he purchased the property of the potential zoning issue.
The council voted 3 to 1 to follow the recommendation of the planning commission and denied the gym's permit.
"It's strange because I was going to employ about 30 to 50 people, high end jobs, best trainers, best administrative people, and run a really high class gym, so 30 to 50 won't be hired now," said Shah.
Shah says he plans to appeal the decision.